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Dunedin, New Zealand

Our first stop of this cruise was at Port Chalmers which serves the city of Dunedin on the South Island. Dating back to 1848 when a Scottish settlement was established, its nicknames are the Edinburgh of the South or “Dunners”, which I can only assume was first coined by a beer-swilling Australian. It is almost antipodal to London so I couldn’t be much further from home right now. 11,852 miles (the most one could be is 12,450).

Dimitra, Chloe and I decided to go freestyle and caught the shuttle from Port Chalmers to the city. From there we had some choices. Dimitra wanted to see the albatrosses but it was a little too far to go so we opted for Larnach Castle which is the only castle in New Zealand. Both attractions were located on the Otago peninsula. Dimitra was clearly upset to be missing out on the albatross encounter and informed us that they mate for life. I tried to make light of the situation by hypothesising on the rate of infidelity among albatrosses bearing in mind the long absences and whether they have the bird equivalent of marriage guidance but it didn’t seem to elevate her mood. Well I’ve done some research and it turns out that of the 11 species that mate for life, the albatross is the most faithful with the lowest divorce rate. It is suggested that it’s the most intense love affair of any animal on the planet which sounds like a challenge to me. Perhaps the long absences keep the romance going.

Once they fling themselves out of the nest and fly for the first time, they stay out at sea for six years before deciding to look for a mate. Then some dancing begins and it can take up to nine years to find the right partner. Talk about picky. During that time, they dance with several partners – the albatross excuse me, and then boom. They find one who doesn’t tread on their webbed feet and they can start touching beaks. For those of you fascinated by the fidelity of birds, flamingoes are the most flighty with a 99% divorce rate.

Anyway, I digress, so off we went to Larnach Castle named after William Larnach who was a successful banker then businessman and finally politician. At one point he was the richest man on the South Island.

The tale of William is rather tragic. He had six children and lived in the castle which he called “the camp” with his wife and her half sister. In 1880 his wife Eliza died at the age of 38. Their youngest child was just two years old. It wasn’t long before he and the half-sister Mary got it on but she too died, also at the age of 38. Now any sane man would go out and find himself a 39 year old to avoid the curse but no – William found a young bit of skirt 21 years his junior. He was 55 and she was 34. Well, she was a city girl and wasn’t happy in the remote setting of the peninsula and as he was away doing politics in Wellington, third wife Constance and his youngest son Douglas began seeing rather more of each other that was appropriate. In 1898 whilst in Wellington, William was sent news of the affair by an unknown person (possibly one of his 46 servants) and shot himself with his pistol. He was 65. Nice castle though.

It was a beautiful sunny day but only 65 degrees in the height of their summer. I feel it gets rather nippy in the winter months. Back in the city I parted company with my tour companions and went in search of a chemist (rash, upper thigh). TMI?

Tomorrow, Christchurch.

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